Day is breaking in Corfu, Greece! It’s going to be another hot day, so let’s get going!
People are already on the ferries!
We’re on the bus to our first destination, the Achilleion Palace. The drive is very nice! Up, up and around we go on very narrow roads………..looking at all the lush scenery!
The Achilleion Palace was built as a get-away villa for Empress Elisabeth of Austria, also known as Sisi. Distraught over the suicide/murder of her only son, Prince Rudolf, Sisi needed an escape from the world and the tabloids……………. If you would like more background information on Sisi look HERE.
In 1889, Prince Rudolf, 30, murdered his 17 year-old mistress and then took his own life at the Imperial Hunting Lodge, Mayerling. The night before his death, Rudolf had fought with his father, Emperor Franz Joseph I, over his marriage problems. Prince Rudolf had given his wife syphilis and she could no longer have children, he was on heroin because of his syphilis, and he had many prostitutes and lovers. He told his father he would not give up his 17 year-old lover, Baroness Mary Vetsera. Following the death of Rudolf, the family reported that the Crown Prince had died of a heart attack. Mary’s body was whisked away without her mother or father ever seeing her body and was buried (dumped) in an unmarked grave in an obscure graveyard away from prying eyes, or so they thought. Meanwhile, Rudolf was declared mentally unstable by the Pope and was buried in the Crown’s burial chambers in Vienna. Since Prince Rudolf was the only son, this led to the downturn in the immediate line of the Hapsburg dynasty. The succession went to the brother of Emperor Franz Joseph I, Archduke Karl Ludwig, and he passed it immediately to his oldest son, Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, in Serajevo in 1914, led to WWI. My what a story!
There is much more to this saga……..but now we know why Sisi wanted a grand villa in Corfu stating,” I want a palace with pillared colonnades and hanging gardens, protected from prying glances – a palace worthy of Achilles, who despised all mortals and did not fear even the gods.” Sisi got her wish………. and never fully recovered. She withdrew from court duties and traveled widely, unaccompanied by her family. The Palace Achilleion features an elaborate mythological motif and served as her refuge, where she continued to obsess over her youthful figure and beauty.
Let’s look at the gardens before we go in the villa……
Quite a nice view of the Ionian Sea!
We are in the plush grounds behind the villa that overlooks the sea………….
And here we see Achilles……..in all his glory!
and many more statues are in the gardens…….
Covered walkways provide shade from the oppressive heat……….
Look up! There are statues everywhere!
and then Achilles is dying……..
A small pool at the back entrance into the villa……is surrounded by many more gods and goddesses….
We even saw a real life goddess………..who was doing a photo shoot for something!
and here is Sisi……..inviting us in……..
Sisi kept the Achilleion Palace until 1896 and then lost interest in it. It could not replace the loss of her son. At one time she considered selling it, but decided to give it to her daughter, Gisela. She did move out much of the interior before she gave the palace up…….
While traveling in Geneva in 1898, Sisi exited a shopping area, where she liked to shop without her security guards to avoid attention. She was stabbed on the street by an Italian anarchist, Luigi Lucheni, with a sharpened needle. She and her maid did not realize she had been stabbed until they took off her leather corset, so she could breathe easier. She had always maintained her slender figure and her 18 inch waist. When the corset was removed she bled to death. She had served as the Empress of Austria for 44 years.
Mary Vetsera’s fate was not better, even after death. Although the family had claimed that Rudolf died from a heart attack, the official story of a murder-suicide went unchallenged until after the end of WWII. In 1946 occupying Soviet troops outside Vienna dislodged the granite plate covering the grave and broke into Vetsera’s coffin, hoping to loot jewels. Then in 1959, a member of the Vetsera family accompanied by physician Gerd Holler, examined the skull and other bones for traces of a bullet hole, but found no such evidence. Lacking forensic evidence of a second bullet, they determined Mary died accidentally, probably from the result of an abortion and it was Rudolph, who shot himself. The body was placed in a new coffin in 1959. In 1991, Vetsera’s remains were disturbed again, this time by Helmut Flatzelsteiner, a furniture maker from Linz, who was obsessed with the Mayerling affair. He had removed the body at night and paid for a private forensic examination, which was completed in 1993. He claimed the body was that of his relative, who had been shot in the head or stabbed. The skeleton was in such a state of disintegration and incomplete, so this idea could not be confirmed. The body was re-interred in the original grave in October of 1993 and Flatzelsteiner was ordered to pay the church 2000 euros for damages.
Wow……..what a day in the garden! Next, we’ll go inside the palace and also have a look at some doors! See you there!